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KY Performance Products: Energy Requirements of OTTBs

If you have an OTTB or were considering a retired Thoroughbred for your next horse, don’t miss Kentucky Performance Products’ six-part series on nutritional considerations for the breed!

Image courtesy of Kentucky Performance Products

Image courtesy of Kentucky Performance Products

If your Thoroughbred is coming straight from the track and has been in training, their metabolic rate will still be high due to intense training and elevated caloric intake. Once leaving the track, many Thoroughbreds benefit from a period of rest and relaxation, along with time to adjust to their new schedules. Their caloric requirements may decrease depending on the type of work involved in their new career, but this will not happen immediately. A gradual decrease in calories (to a level appropriate for their new career) over several weeks is recommended to prevent weight loss. Grass may be a new element to your Thoroughbred’s diet. Your OTTB will need to be slowly introduced to pasture, and if plenty of pasture is available it can become the foundation of their diet. If pasture is not available, high-quality forage must be provided.

Thoroughbreds often have the reputation of being hard keepers. Many Thoroughbreds are not efficient at converting dietary energy to fat. As with all horses, the main component of their diet should be high-quality forage, but a concentrated energy source may be required to maintain weight in their new career. Feeds formulated for performance horses or senior horses with energy coming from beet pulp, vegetable oil, and soy hulls are good options. While providing some simple carbohydrates (sugars and starches found in whole grains and molasses) is important, this can lead to “hot” or excitable behavior. When necessary, these energy sources can be limited until they are needed to fuel top-level performance later on.

If your Thoroughbred needs additional sources of energy to maintain weight, consider adding a supplemental fat to the diet. Fats, such as stabilized rice bran, are digested at a much slower rate and don’t cause the hormone spikes associated with excitability. Fats contain more energy pound for pound than simple carbs, so you can feed smaller meals and deliver just as many calories, if not more. As an added benefit, fats will not cause the hindgut overload that large sugar/starch meals can cause, reducing the risk of colic or laminitis.

Not all Thoroughbreds coming off the track will be hard keepers in their new career. You may find your Thoroughbred only requires a feed formulated for a low work level. With any feed you use, remember that if you are not feeding the minimum amount recommended by the manufacturer your horse will not receive the required amounts of vitamins and minerals. If you are feeding less than the recommend levels, or your horse is on pasture alone, they will benefit from a well-balanced vitamin and mineral supplement.

Check back next week to learn more about avoiding muscle problems in the off-the-track Thoroughbred.

Read part 1: Transitioning the OTTB to a new career

Read part 2: Ulcers and digestive tract imbalances in the OTTB

Article written by KPP staff.

Copyright (C) 2016 Kentucky Performance Products, LLC.   All rights reserved.


When health issues arise, always seek the advice of a licensed veterinarian who can help you choose the correct course of action for your horse. Supplements are intended to maintain healthy systems and support recovery and healing. They are not intended to treat or cure illness or injury.


About Kentucky Performance Products, LLC: Since 1998, Kentucky Performance Products has simplified a horse owner’s search for research-proven nutritional horse supplements that meet the challenges facing modern horses. KPP horse supplements target specific nutritional needs and are formulated to complement today’s feeds, thus safeguarding against over-supplementation. Each product is scientifically formulated and made with high-quality ingredients at certified manufacturing facilities. Kentucky Performance Products is proud to offer a quality assurance promise backed by a money-back guarantee. Kentucky Performance Products brings you horse supplements you can count on because the horse that matters to you, matters to us.

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